When you are pregnant, you need to eat certain foods to make sure your baby’s brain develops properly. Your baby will need plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, such as choline and zinc, for his brain and nervous system to develop properly. Also, make sure you get enough folic acid in your diet so that your baby’s neural tubes develop properly. Prenatal vitamins contain folic acid. You’ll also find it added to bread and other grain products.
Your baby needs DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is the basis of brain cells, according to FamilyEducation. He also needs DHA for proper development of his nervous system and eyes. Fish, such as salmon and sardines, contain plenty of DHA. You should aim for at least 300 mg DHA a day during your pregnancy. Exercise some caution when eating fish, though. Certain fish, such as tuna, can be high in mercury and should be avoided when you are pregnant. A study published in the July/August 2004 issue of “Child Development” suggested that babies whose mothers who had high levels of DHA at birth had improved attention spans over babies whose mothers did not have high levels.
The nutrient choline can benefit both your brain and the growing brain of your baby, especially during the third trimester, according to What to Expect. Choline is the basis for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps build memory in your baby and improve any memory lapses you may be suffering from. You should aim for about 450 mg choline daily. A great source of choline is the yolk of eggs. According to “The Pregnancy Food Guide,” a brochure from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, two eggs provide one-half your daily choline. Look for eggs fortified with omega-3’s for extra brain-boosting power. Egg yolks are also a good source for folate, the natural form of folic acid. Make sure the eggs are cooked completely to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
Wheat germ is a great source of choline and DHA. Try sprinkling 1 tbsp. of it onto your cereal in the morning or using it to top casseroles in the place of bread crumbs.
Nuts, such as walnuts, cashews and almonds, are a great source of protein and healthy fats when you are pregnant. They’re also full of choline. When you’re pregnant, walnuts are a great choice, since they are full of DHA, too.
Eating a bowl of cereal every morning may be the quickest way to get the nutrients your body needs for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Many cereals are fortified with 400 mcg folic acid, which you need each day to prevent neural tube defects, such as spinal bifida. Most cereals also contain zinc and iron, which your baby needs for DNA production and red blood cell production.